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Branching Out: Horrible Histories

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If you like Horrible Histories, try these…

The Horrible Histories books have seen epic success – with over 60 books, a BAFTA award-winning TV series and several spin-off series to date. The books are well known for highlighting the gruesome side of history and are packed with jokes, comics and gruesome facts.

We’ve put together a list of ten similar books for fans of Horrible Histories. Readers who enjoy all the gory details of life in the past might like to try Anglo-Saxon Boy or Tony Robinson’s The Worst Children’s Jobs in History. If you want to get stuck into some gripping historical fiction, try Arctic Star or Caroline Lawrence’s timelessly popular Roman Mysteries series. For something a bit more lighthearted but still laced with historical detail, we recommend Smuggler’s Daughter or A Mummy Ate my Homework. Children looking for a fun spin to take the edge off cold hard facts should try So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: Life as a Kid in Ancient Rome or Adam Kay’s joke-packed history of medicine in Kay’s Marvellous Medicine.

Browse the full list below of books for children looking for what to read next after Horrible Histories…

Books for Fans of Horrible Histories

Thiago de Moraes
Chapter book

A heavily illustrated chapter book full of interesting and unusual facts about Ancient Egypt woven into a funny, action-packed time travel adventure. The book includes an engaging mix of visual features, including comic strips, maps and full page spreads and also has bonus activities at the end include hieroglyphic codes to crack – a winning combination for reluctant readers and those who enjoy fact-finding in a story.

Philip Ardagh
 & Jamie Littler
Chapter book

Part of Philip Ardagh’s popular ‘The Secret Diary of…’ series, this is highly entertaining historical fiction for a young audience, bringing a place, a time and a way of life alive for its readers. This one is set in 18th century Cornwall, where Kitty and her family live in a small fishing village. Kitty’s father is the head of a gang of smugglers who are trying to keep their contraband and illegal activities hidden from the excisemen. Kitty is supposed to stay safely at home but she regularly creeps out at night to watch her father and his men at work. Very soon she gets caught up in the action, including a shipwreck, secret caves, betrayal and a prison break.

Tony Robinson
Non-fiction
In The Worst Children's Jobs in History Sir Tony Robinson takes you back to the days when being a kid was no excuse for getting out of hard labour. This book tells the stories of all the children whose work fed the nation, kept trains running, and put clothes on everyone's backs, over the last few hundred years of Britain's history. No longer will you have to listen to your parents, grandparents, uncles, neighbours, and random old people in the Co-op telling you how much harder they had it in their day. Next time you find yourself in that situation, ask them if they were a jigger-turner or a turnip-picker in their young day. No? An orderly boy, perhaps? A stepper? Maybe they spent their weekends making matchboxes? Still no? Then they have no idea about the real meaning of hard work. With profiles and testimonies of real kids in rotten jobs, this book will tell you things you probably didn't want to know about the back-breaking, puke-inducing reality of being a child in the past.
Marcia Williams
Chapter book
This is a highly recommended diary-style text by the popular author-illustrator Marcia Williams. It recounts the experiences of a nine-year-old girl during the Second World War and is presented with cartoon style illustrations, flaps, envelopes and a wealth of details about life for children during the war. My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright is a superb text to use to inspire recount or diary writing.
Chae Strathie
 & Marisa Morea
Non-fiction

Published in collaboration with The British Museum, this children’s information book offers a humorous and informative introduction to daily life in Ancient Rome and has a high appeal to readers in KS2.

Through words and pictures, the book compares modern-day life for children to different aspects of daily life for the Ancient Romans, including clothes and hairstyles, education, family life, pets, food and hobbies. The book sets itself apart from the myriad of other non-fiction texts about the Romans as each topic is viewed through the eyes of a child. Did you know, for example, that emperor Elagabalus was a cheeky prankster who was known to feed his dinner guests food made of wax? If you think that your school has too many rules, wait until you read about the vow that new students at gladiator school had to make. And the next time you begin to think that your bedroom is too small, spare a thought for Roman slaves, who often had to sleep in the doorway to their master’s bedroom.

This is the third in the ‘So You Think You’ve Got it Bad’ series, with the other titles focusing on Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. This is the kind of non-fiction series that makes the information visual, presenting facts through speech bubbles, diagrams and bright cartoon-style illustrations as well as accessible chunks of text.

This is the kind of book that helps young readers to move beyond hard facts and begin to reflect on what life might have felt like for those living in ancient times.


Tony Bradman
Chapter book
This exciting story from Tony Bradman is a popular choice in KS2 classrooms and is set just before the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Follow the story of young Magnus and his adventure-packed journey to the Battle of Hastings, as he is forced to contend with vicious family feuds and merciless claims to the throne. Full of excitement, danger and all the gore of the period, this is an action-packed novel brimming with historical details.
Caroline Lawrence
Chapter book

A gripping novel that provides plenty of background information about life in Ancient Roman times. The plot of The Thieves of Ostia centres around a young girl called Flavia who investigates the mystery of who is killing the dogs in the Roman port of Ostia. This is a popular choice for KS2 classrooms and is part of the well-loved Roman Mysteries series

Tom Palmer
Chapter book Dyslexia-friendly

This well-researched and highly readable novel takes its title from the name of the medal that honours the Arctic Convoys during World War II. The story, with its concluding Author’s Note and accompanying online teaching notes available from Tom Palmer’s website, provides an exciting and informative classroom resource for the teaching of WWII as a curriculum topic, besides being a book many children will choose for the sheer enjoyment of reading. Winner of the BooksForTopics Book of the Year Award for Best Curriculum Support.

Adam Kay
Non-fiction
The olden days were pretty fun if you liked wearing chainmail or chopping people's heads off but there was one TINY LITTLE problem back then . . . doctors didn't have the slightest clue about how our bodies worked. It's time to find out why Ancient Egyptians thought the brain was just a useless load of old stuffing that might as well be chucked in the bin, why teachers forced their pupils to smoke cigarettes, why hairdressers would cut off their customers' legs, and why people used to get paid for farting. (Unfortunately that's no longer a thing - sorry.) You'll get answers to questions like: Why did patients gargle with wee? How did a doctor save people's lives using a washing machine, a can of beans and some old sausages? What was the great stink? (No, it's not what doctors call your bum.) If you're sure you're ready, then pop a peg on your nose (there was a lot of stinky pus back then), pull on your wellies (there was a lot of poo there too), wash your hands (because they certainly didn't) and explore this gross and gruesome history of the human body!
Frances Durkin
 & Grace Cooke
Graphic Novel
This engaging book is a fun hybrid between graphic novel, activity book and information text. The story, told in graphic novel form, follows a group of friends who travel back in time and explore Ancient Egypt. At various different points in the story there are relevant puzzles, fact boxes, activities and project ideas. This book has a high visual appeal and is a great addition to your library of Egyptian topic books.

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